The American Society During The Nineteenth Century History Essay

September 20, 2017 History

While detecting American society during the nineteenth century, Gallic blue blood, Alexis de Tocqueville, witness a society that was spread outing into the wilderness and developing quickly. A society unhindered by ceremonial history and set free by a liberally formed authorities, American Democracy, as seen by Tocqueville, represent the frontier of political scientific surveies. However, Tocqueville saw clouds looming for this society which relied so to a great extent on popular sovereignty. Tocqueville feared that a bulk of citizen would softly organize into a powerful political block making the absolute regulation of the Tyranny of the Majority. These frights would be realized several clip throughout history ; but most efficiently, in the matter with the Native-Americans.

What Dangers did Tocqueville see in the dictatorship of the bulk?

Thomas Jefferson one time stated that “ a democracy is nil more than rabble regulation, where 51 per centum of the people may take away the rights of the other 49 ” 1. While the flowering of “ broad ” democracies over history has to changing grades proven this true, Alexis de Tocqueville identified this job specifically during his visit to America. In 1831, the immature Gallic blue blood, visited the United States to analyze the American penal system and to detect democracy at work. Sometime subsequently he published his positions on American democracy, Democracy in America, as a critical survey of American establishments and attitudes. In his observations, he came to the decision that one of the greatest dangers confronting a democracy was what he called “ The Tyranny of the Majority ” . Through an scrutiny of Native and American dealingss every bit good as Tocqueville ‘s text, it is clear that the “ Tyranny of the Majority ” is an built-in “ hazard ” associated with broad democracy and remains an intrinsic defect in broad idea.

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While touring the state, Tocequville observed the absolute sovereignty of the bulk was the kernel of democratic authorities. Broad idea insisted that the “ multitudes ” or voting public-determined by land ownership-would wield the bulk of the power. While Tocqueville clearly saw constructions in the American system which provided for the “ reconciliation ” of powers, he still feared the development of “ absolute ” power. Tocqueville observed motion in this way even at the clip of his journey. American democracy was ruled by the majority-they elected and unseated the members of both the province and federal legislative assemblies to accommodate their demands, had their rights and involvements protected in the fundamental laws, and, in some provinces, even elected those who served as Judgess and executors of the jurisprudence. Tocqueville besides noticed that there was small to protect the minority ‘s rights, and small it could make about it. Some of the constructions acted to beef up the already strong, and enfeebled the already weak. Deducing their moral authorization from the thought that more wisdom is to be found in Numberss, Americans felt that the sentiments of the bulk could non be incorrect.

De Tocqueville, nevertheless, criticized this sovereignty of the bulk and questioned it infallibility:

A bulk taken jointly may be regarded as a being whose sentiments, and most often whose involvements, are opposed to those of another being, which is sty and a minority. If it be admitted that a adult male, possessing absolute power, may misapply that power by incorrect making his antagonists, why should a bulk non be apt to the same reproach? Work forces are non disposed to alter their characters by aggleration.2

He felt that limitless power in itself was unsafe, for work forces were non competent to exert it with discretion. Such “ absolute ” power is the specifying hazard Tocqueville saw in Liberalism and specifically American Democracy. Tocqueville ‘s observation delineated that the preparation of “ broad ” authorities had yet to decide this menace. While Tocqueville acknowledged that the American system attempted to make hierarchies of power which would look into the power of the other, he nevertheless felt that these protections remained unequal securities against such dictatorship. Where could an single or group entreaty to in instance of unfairness at the custodies of the bulk? Public sentiment, the legislative assembly, the executive, and even the courts-which we seen as mechanism to restrict absolute power-were by no agencies free from the turning influence of the multitudes. If one was wronged, so he by and large had no pick but to set up with it every bit best as he could.

He besides stated, while naming the dangers of the bulk ‘s tyranny that:

If there existed in America a category of citizens whom the passing bulk sought to strip of sole privileges, which they had possessed for agesaˆ¦it is likely that the minority would be less ready to follow with its laws.3

While going about the state, he got a opportunity to see the dictatorship of the bulk in action-against the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeastern United States. These five Indian folk, — the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminoles-had lived in the South in comparative peace with the Whites. The Creeks had been one of the lone folk to actively defy the Americans, and the Cherokee had even helped the Americans. In conflict against the Creeks in 1814, Andrew Jackson ‘s life was saved by the Cherokee head Junalaska4. These Indian folks were chiefly husbandmans and lived in peace as independent states under the protection of the United States. Of these, the Cherokee were, possibly, the most advanced. They carried on trade with bordering provinces, grew and exported cotton, had a written linguistic communication in which about 100 per centum of them were literate, and instituted the first public school system in the South. None of the folks were either represented in the American authorities or had an official portion in the civic interworkings of the American Democracy. While some may reason that such an independent province represents a “ non-governmental ” organic structure and hence non a concern for the regnant authorities ; nevertheless, enlightenment idea proposes that all work forces have equal entree to liberty. Should this be limited or defined by province citizenship? In the instance of the Native Americans, the bulk of voting citizens saw the maltreatments of this minority as conscionable.

These Indians, with their pact protected rights and liberty, best fitted de Tocqueville ‘s above words, as the white Americans grew in Numberss and began to teem due west, they found these Indian folks and their government-sanctioned freedoms in their way. Anti-Indian sentiments increased as land-hungry colonists and immigrants learned of the rich birthrate of these Indian-held countries. Southern plantation owners desired the exuberant vales for their cotton plantations, and speculators sought to gain by opening these countries to unite colonists. As more and more Whites pressured the authorities, the authorities began to coerce the Indians to give up greater and greater countries to white colonists.

In his book, de Tocqueville observed that there was a general instability of authorization in America, since everything was done, more or less, on the caprices of the bulk. A rapid turnover in the legislative assemblies, the changeless add-on and amendment to the Torahs to delight the bulk, and the manner many politicians bent to the frequently contradictory caprices of the multitudes were cited as grounds behind this general instability. By the 1830 ‘s, the bulk exercised its powers to do the United States go back on its pacts and warrants to the Indians and open their land to white colony. They elected Jackson, a backwoodsman and Indian combatant, to the presidential term, and used the influence of Southern plantation owners and speculators to rock Congress in their favour. The bulk clamored ravenously for the Indian lands, and in 1831, the Indian Removal Act was passed. The United States authorities decided to strip the Indians of their land, freedom, and liberty to run into the bulk ‘s demands, merely as de Tocqueville had predicted.

The Removal Act was contested in the Supreme Court, and the determination was in favour of the Cherokees. But, as de Tocqueville had warned, there was no protection for a wronged minority when it stands in the bulk ‘s way. While the Supreme Court was created as one of the chief defence against absolute bulk regulation, the Constitution granted the high tribunal no “ enforcement ” power-also as a safeguard against an unelected organic structure holding excessively much power-leaving such determination as the triumph for the Cherokee in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia wholly unenforced. President Jackson, who had forgotten his deliverance by Cherokees at horseshoe Bend, was determined to pacify the majority-seeing as these “ multitudes ” elected him. When he heard of the Court ‘s determination, he said angrily, “ John Marshall has made his determination ; allow him implement it now if he can! “ 5 When gold was discovered on Cherokee land, all was lost for the Indians. The Five Civilized Tribes were ordered to go forth their places and travel to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma and Arkansas.

De Tocqueville was on manus to witness the scene and described it in Democracy in America:

No call, no shortness of breath was heard among the assembled crowd ; all was soundless. Their catastrophes were of ancient day of the month and they knew them to be irremediableaˆ¦half convinced and half compelled they go to populate new comeuppances, where the importunate Whites will non allow them stay 10 old ages in peace. In this mode do the Americans obtain at really low monetary value whole states which the richest crowned head of Europe could non purchase.6

Therefore, the bulk ‘s will won out, striping these people of their pact rights and countenances of liberty, disregarding the opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court when it was counter to their will, and utilizing the office of the Presidency as a tool to accomplish its illegal terminals. Federal military personnels were sent out to implement the Removal Act, and the Indian folks were herded like cowss from their fatherland. Land-hungry Whites descended on the Indian land like battalions of wolves, and where-over the doomed indigens went, stealers and slayings harassed the strayers.

In the great forced March that came to be called “ The Trail of Tears ” by the Cherokee, contractors hired to oversee and expeditiously implement the remotion kept the Indians at a famishment degree, trusting to do a net income from the excess money allotted by the authorities. As a consequence, 1000s died on their manner to the waste prairies of Oklahoma, about every campground along the path was scarred by Gravess. Disease, famishment, the difficult winters in the wilderness, and broken Black Marias took their toll. Of the 17,000 Cherokees get downing the trip, over a one-fourth of them died on the manner.

When the last of the Cherokee had gone, President Van Buren announced to Congress on December 3, 1838:

It affords me sincere pleasance to advise the Congress of the full remotion of the Cherokee Nation of Indians to their new places west of the Mississippi. The steps authorized by Congress at its last session have had the happiest effectaˆ¦ ( The Cherokees ) have migrated without evident reluctance.7

One of the Whites who witnessed the remotion, and subsequently served as a colonel in the Confederacy, had a different sentiment on the affair. “ I fought through the Civil War and have seen work forces shot to pieces and slaughtered by the 1000s, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I of all time knew. “ 8

And therefore the form was set for all future traffics between the Indian and the white adult male in America, every bit good as for most minorities versus bulks struggles. Not until much subsequently would the United States even begin to move in behalf of the minorities, and even today these securities are deplorably unequal. De Tocqueville ‘s frights of dictatorship by the bulk seem to hold been tenable, as evidenced by the Indian Removal and to boot the intervention of Blacks. While Tocqueville observed bondage and determined it as a possible malignant neoplastic disease of America society, he failed to recognize the societal stratification that would ensue because of it, reenforcing the growing of a opinion elite. Both the maltreatments against native populations and the coincident developments of bondage clear reveal that Liberal thought bred in American democracy a inclination toward the absolute regulation of the bulk.

Unfortunately, small has been done to this twenty-four hours to rectify the dangers he pointed out. The person ‘s freedoms are still at the clemency of the bulk. In explicating why democratic absolutism was so much more effectual than single absolutism, de Tocqueville summed things up suitably:

Under the absolute sway of the single tyrant, the organic structure was attacked in order to repress the psyche ; but such is non the class adopted by dictatorship in democratic democracies ; there the organic structure is left free, and the psyche is enslaved.9

On the other manus, American Democracy much like the political orientation of Liberalism has evolved through the patterned advance of clip. Such socially high motions as the Feminist motion of the 1960 ‘s and the Civil Right motion of the 1950 ‘s demonstrate that while a broad society has inclination towards absolute power, a free society is possible of alteration where a minority is incorporated into a of all time turning bulk. Additionally, as stated antecedently, a inquiry of the duty of the authorities in affairs of non-citizens and the maltreatments by the bulk remain a inquiry of all broad democracies, particularly when it comes to illegal in-migration. However, while the issues persists, a clear contrast is seen in the handling of power in modern instances. While “ hatred ” so exists in dealingss to in-migration, such political orientations have been merely permitted as such, ideas. Actions, such as the Removal Act against the Natives, have become societal unacceptable and marginalized. Such developments reveal that while Tocqueville was so right about liberalism and a inclination towards the dictatorship of the bulk ; it is clear that clip has allowed societies and political orientations to reply some of its lingering inquiries.

As demonstrated through an geographic expedition of Alexis de Tocqueville ‘s seminal classic, Democracy in America, it is apparent that Tocqueville saw the dictatorship of the bulk as a possible malignant neoplastic disease of broad democracies-fearing a loss of wide autonomy. As seen through an scrutiny of modern-day interactions between the American authorities and Native-American folks, it is clear that Tocqueville ‘s fright were rapidly realized and developed a form which would stalk American Democracy until the 1950 ‘s. Tocqueville observed and determined that this “ dictatorship of the bulk ” was underpinned by a development of absolute regulation created by cabals within society and doing stratification. While a graded society is the antonym of what Tocqueville observe during his trip, in many respects American society became graded due to the growing of a opinion category. However, such issues have been in some respects been addressed, as broad idea and American democracy have adjusted to guard against the maltreatment of the bulk. However, Alexis de Tocqueville remains of import in understanding societal kineticss and bar of absolute regulation.


Democracy Quotes. ” ThinkExist Quotes. Web. 16 Mar. 2011. & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: // & gt ; .

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ( New York:

Schocken Books, 1961 ) , pp. 304-305.

de Tocqueville, p. 300.

Raymond Friday Locke, ed. , “ The Trail of Tears, ” The American Indian, ( Los Angeles, CA: Mankind Publishing Co. , 1970 ) , p. 95.

Locke, p. 98.

Alexis de Tocqueville, quoted by Christopher Davis, in North American Indian, ( Feltham, England: Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. , 1969 ) , p. 51.

Locke, p. 83.

Locke, p. 11.

De Tocqueville, p. 311.


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